Core business

18 mei 2016

Core business

Education is the core business of a university. Our mission is to prepare succeeding generations of students to contribute to solutions to the complex problems they will face in their professional careers. We do that by teaching our students to think broadly and deeply in their chosen disciplines, by challenging them to look beyond disciplinary boundaries, by exposing them to the diversity of thoughts, beliefs, and standpoints that accompany the diversity of our society and the commensurate complexity of real world problems, and finally by teaching them to collaborate with others to put together all the pieces of the puzzle.

All of this happens thanks to our dedicated academic and support staff. Our teachers are role models for our students, and are the engines of this core business. There are, however, dilemmas aplenty. How do we ensure that passion for, and excellence in, teaching is rewarded equitably? How do we assess and evaluate teaching excellence meaningfully? How do we ensure that our research breakthroughs enrich our teaching, and vice versa? These are questions I hear time and time again in my conversations with VU colleagues, and particularly from younger ones, who are struggling to find a balance between teaching and research. It is our responsibility as a university to recognize that education is our core business, and that in our context, teaching, research, and other forms of academic service go hand-in-hand. Teaching is an integral part of our mission, has intrinsic value, and is an essential element of the academic career path. 

Teaching is an essential element of the academic career path

As an undergraduate student at Cornell University, I had the privilege of being taught by inspiring teachers – young upcoming talent, established experts, members of the National Academies of Science and Engineering, and indeed, Nobel prizewinners. They were my role models. I remember the hotshot who turned down conference invitations because she had more important commitments – teaching. I'd like to see this commitment to our core business more prominently at the VU.

 

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As many new staff members are entering the VU with tenure-track positions in which succesfully applying for research grants is the most important in meeting the requirements to get tenured, I do understand that in most cases the invitation to a conference is more appealing than giving another lecture. Indeed, time to make education more important, to start with including it more explicitly in the requirements to get tenured and lowering the nearly impossible demands on attracting external funding.

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